Saturday, April 23, 2011

Better Than Dreams

It’s a glorious morning here on Kauai. As the sun rises—spreading pink, yellow and gold across the baby blue sky—the neighborhood roosters greet the day with a hearty alooooHA! 
Over a rich cup of coffee, Dan and I discuss living our life with passion; through work that we love. Work that is so natural for us, it doesn’t seem like work. Hours fly by as we diligently create or learn about our individual crafts.
People are intrigued by my job as a food writer. I can hardly believe it myself. I get paid to go to restaurants, try the food and write about it! Dan gets to come with me and take pictures. Folks tell me, “Man! You have the best job! I would love to eat at restaurants and write about it!”
It is an amazing gift that came into my life because I was listening. I was listening for those soft, sometimes imperceptible whispers. Life calls. You know, those fleeting ideas that fill your heart with excitement, joy or inspiration? Those ideas that light up your mind.  The ones we dismiss as crazy, ridiculous or impossible. We forget about them. Kind of.
Folks have been telling Dan, “I’ve always liked to take pictures. It would be so cool if I could do it for a living!” Well, of course you can. Whatever you put energy into is going to grow. If you put energy into wanting to be a photographer, you will always want to be one. If you put energy into actually taking pictures, then you will become a photographer.
Neither Dan or I had dreams of becoming a writer or photographer. Ever. When we moved here we knew we wanted to be creative. We knew we wanted to be challenged and we knew we wanted to live interesting lives. That’s it! So we listened. Listened for those whispers and then acted on them. Most fell flat. Either because the time wasn’t right, or it just didn’t ring true deep inside. Slowly, as we became accustomed to island life, the avenues revealed themselves. 
We have a long way to go, and that is OK. We are polishing our skills. We are having fun learning, stretching, creating. We are infused with passion and excitement. With that as our fuel, we are bound to succeed. Maybe someday we will travel the world taking pictures and writing for Smithsonian and National Geographic. Maybe we will have an art gallery. Maybe I will write a book and a couple of people in Alaska will buy it. 
I have no idea how this is going to turn out. I do know it’s going to be a fantastic ride. I also know that I have no desire to plan my path. I do what’s in front of me, in this very moment. I do it to the best of my abilities, and then move on. I know that Life will create my dream and I will live it. I don’t want the responsibility because I can’t plan it as well. My imagination is too limited for what Life has in store. I never imagined I’d get a call asking me if I wanted to get paid for writing about food! If I was in charge, that call would not have come.
I did take the steps that created that call. I planted the seeds. I listened to a whisper that said, “Hey, send her an email. Tell her you want to write.” I made that email the best I could before I sent it off. And then I forgot about it. I started on the next thing. 
Dan and I have realized some things that we believe are keys to our success, our idea of success anyway. One, we created fertile soil to plant our seeds in. We got rid of everything that didn’t matter in our life’s picture. We got rid of all the trappings that made it necessary to earn a lot of money. We slowly got rid of the attitude that we had to make a lot of money. Don’t get me wrong, I hope to be making a lot of money again, but it will be different. 
We won’t be smothered in debt and things. If we don’t have the cash we won’t get it. We have found that we need very little. Most of the things we buy today are work related. This is extremely freeing because we don’t have to spend most of our time doing something we don’t enjoy. Something that takes away from who we want to be, in exchange for money. In exchange for stuff.
Because we have this freedom and we live in an amazingly beautiful place, we are inspired. Inspired to learn about writing or cameras, photography, photoshop, illustrator. We are amassing paint colors on our palette. Collecting resources to create work that will inspire ourselves. That inspiration will naturally inspire others. 
I have learned that every one of us has a unique voice. A voice someone else will want to witness.We all have life experiences that make us different. You may be a mother who enjoys capturing candid moments of her children. Maybe your friends enjoy seeing your pictures because they are touched by them. There are other mothers who want fantastic pictures of their kids. Sometimes right after they are born.
Listen to your inner voice—those whispers—and have confidence in yourself that you can create. That you will create. Create fertile soil for your dreams to blossom. Carefully tend that garden. Weed out negative thoughts. Fertilize with knowledge. Shine on the bright light of inspiration. Create space for growth and air to circulate. Water with tenderness and compassion. 
What are your whispers? Can you hear them? What do you do with them?

I am so excited to say Dan has started his own blog. In his words:

The Challenge: Capture one great photo every single day for a full year.

The Players: Myself. A Nikon D90. All the lenses I have, borrow, buy or rent; accessorized with an SB600 flash, a Manfrotto 055XPROB Pro Tripod, Manfrotto 496RC2 ball head and a Nodal Ninja NN5 panorama head.

The Location: The Garden Island of Kauai in the US state of Hawaii—and any place I visit throughout the year.

I realized that I was spending the vast majority of my time behind the camera shooting photos for work. Rarely have I found the time to just get out and get some shots for fun. Shots that are creative and artistic. Nothing scheduled or assigned. I have decided to do this challenge to get myself out there and get some photos! I really enjoy seeing the natural beauty that surrounds me, and striving to capture it in a single frame. Well, maybe not a single frame since I love taking panoramic photos. . .

Starting Monday April 25, 2011, I will set forth on my quest. I'm not sure what images I will capture, but whatever I happen to come across, I will post them here. This is quite a daunting challenge, but overwhelmingly exhilarating to think about. I am looking at everything in a slightly different way. Thoughts like, "What will that look like in the morning light?" or, "What is there to see around that bend in the road?" are running through my head at a mile a minute. 

Some days I may post all kinds of information about the photo. Time of day, location, camera settings and a host of other information. Some days I may just get the photo uploaded before I slink into bed. I would love your feedback. What are your thoughts on my photos? How do they affect you? This is an adventure of learning. Learning more about photography and my island home. So join me as I attempt to take a photo a day, every day for the next 365 days.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

We finally got to go on the photo tour. Spending four hours last Sunday with an Australian mom and her two daughters, we learned about secret shooting locations from the east side up to the north shore. While eating a quick lunch in Hanalei, we peppered our guide Levi with questions. If you are a photography geek, then this is an excellent tour to take. I guess even professional photographers take it. 
Our guide Levi, born and raised on Kauai.

From left front: Vanilla beans, tea used to add tannins and balance flavors, ginger, mountain apple, cacao beans and Jamaican lilikoi. All from Kauai except for the tea. 
This week we got to do a review for Nani Moon Mead. The meadery in Kapaa uses fruit and honey from Kauai and I am now a mead lover, as long as it’s hers. I had some at the Renaissance Festival in Colorado but it was way to sweet. These are dry and refreshing. The owner sent Dan an email from a writer on the Big Island who wants pictures for Wine Enthusiast magazine, we’ll see what happens!
Dan has a wonderful affinity towards young children, they just open up to him and he gets some great shots as a result. This is Hunter. His mom is Stephanie, the owner of Nani Moon Mead. Nani means beautiful.

I had taken the past week off from the Freedom From Smoking (FFS) website. I was sick and just didn’t make it on there. A lady who has been quit for three years, and who posts stuff everyday on the message boards, sent me an email wondering if I was OK. I told her that since I had not been on the site, I was weakening. I’m afraid I can’t do it. She said that was the addiction talking and sent me some really helpful information. Another person suggested the websites Why Quit and Quit Smoking. I didn’t want to go to them, but I did and I am glad. Powerful stuff.
My blog has introduced me to Debi, and she introduced me to FFS. Becoming friends with her and learning about FFS encourages me as I feel it was divine intervention. I had given up. The message boards give me courage by offering support and encouragement. The lessons arm me with knowledge and a plan. I feel like this is going to be it and one thing I am going to do for sure (besides read all the tragic stories on the other two websites) is frequent those message boards when I get weak! Dan and I are giving it another go on April 30th, so send us some healing vibes to fortify us!
Our pizza before the oven

We won’t have to pay for our favorite pizza for probably a year! Yes, right now we accept delicious pizza as payment. Several weeks ago Dan went down the hill to pick up pizza a and talked to them about doing a story. Turns out they want pictures for their website instead. We spent three hours there and Dan got about 350 shots, I think will they have something to work with! We went home with a 3 pound medium pizza. It was loaded with a fresh pork sausage we watched them make; pure pork, trimmed of all the fat and mixed with 3 spices. It’s the best pork sausage I’ve ever had. I don’t really like sausage so that’s saying something! They also want some family portraits done in September when mom comes out for her anniversary.
The pizza folks' daughter Lilly didn't want "that man" taking her pictures, but she caved later in the evening. 

I decided that since I’m a fledgeling writer, I should be reading the Kauai and state newspapers everyday. So, I did what my dad has done for as long as I can remember and walked to the Menehune Mart—similar to a 7-11—to retrieve the papers. It was a balmy morning and the 55 minute round trip walk fostered an intimate connection to my neighborhood. I had hopes of doing this everyday but, I haven’t done it since. Some of the things I learned from reading the papers are: 
Gas prices on Hawaii average $4.30 regular.
The Japanese Red Cross has about 2 million volunteers and about 125,000 blankets, 183,000 items of clothing, 26,000 relief kits and 11,000 sleeping kits have been donated. More than 188,000 folks are still displaced and staying in 2,200 evacuation centers. The Japanese Red Cross will begin distributing $800 million dollars to local governments. The level of radiation was raised from a 5 to a 7 and officials fear that it could exceed Chernoybl. The first 36 of 70,000 temporary homes were given to residents. Hawaii related Red Cross donations total 1.6 million. Our hearts go out to the suffering families of Japan.
Trace levels of radiation have been found in milk from the Big Island. Cause for concern is 33,000 picocuries and 43 were found, so I guess the milk is OK. Folks are buying Geiger counters to measure radiation in their food but specialists say that is pointless. 
Friday Dan came home from work shaking his head in disbelief. The store is a magnet for hippies and children of the universe. I guess a “professional” crystal reader set up shop to determine via the crystal vibration, how much radiation from Japan an individual had absorbed into their body. The healing process went on all day, her crystals constantly vibrating the prescription for her eager patients. Some folks were indeed running Japan’s radiation through their veins and were prescribed the use of other crystals, a function she happily performed. Others were directed to the supplement section. Some folks were relived to hear they had no radiation and anxiously applied the preventive measures. She spent about 10 attentive minutes with each of her patients and charged 25 bucks a pop. She was still there when Dan left for the day, he guesses she made about $1000 by the time he left. Boy, we need to get into crystals!

Dan and I took the dogs to my new favorite beach. It’s one of the secret ones we found on the photo tour. It's also the one above with the shot of Levi. So, if you wanna know where it is you have to come for a visit! Walking down a short jungle trail, the beach reveals itself through a veil of trees. 25 foot high black rocks enclose the bay and contrast the clear blue water. 

The water was flat but occasionally a four foot wave would crash onto the shore. I was in the water, after throwing the floatie for Baxter to retrieve, when a wave slammed Baxter into me. As I was getting my footing, I looked back and saw Lucy riding the crest high above me, her eyes bulged with uncertainty. She rode it in, and it didn’t stop her from playing in the ocean!

Aloha Nui Loa

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Goats are Silly!

It’s funny how when you are sick, things can become clearer. It’s like while your body is working hard to purge infection, your mind is purging sick thought patterns or ideas. It happened for both Dan and I as we lay in misery coughing, sneezing, and blowing our noses.
Keiki (kay kee) is the name for children in Hawaiian

Dan is finding a way to do his job at Papaya’s and not give it everything he has. It’s what he does when he works, he gives the job everything he’s got. Since Papaya’s is his “landing job” (first job here), not a career, he doesn’t need to give himself completely over to it. He’s pretty much overhauled the whole department anyway.

He took several days off (without pay) because he was so sick and in doing so was able to let go. Not let go in the sense of not caring but let go so he could let his passion for photography and graphic design in; give it fertile ground to grow in. I can tell he feels good about it and has been getting out and taking some pictures. This week he went to our neighbors and shot some goats. I’m posting quite a few because I like that goats smile and I’m hoping these pictures make my nephew Austin smile.

Today while I was at the library, Dan met with a photographer friend. They talked about gear and swapped cameras and took some pictures. Check out Damon’s beautiful photography here. Damon wants to sell his second camera so he lent it to Dan. While I type this Dan is on the floor taking pictures of Baxter with both cameras for comparison. Not that he’s going to buy the camera, he just wants to see what the difference is between a $4000.00 camera (Damon’s) and a $1300.00 camera. 
This is from the deck of Damon's house with Damon's camera. The house down in the valley is out friend's whose birthday party we went to last week.

These are some shots that Dan got from Damon's camera in Damon's backyard.

In an ah-ha moment for me, I realized that I need to change the way I’m creating my life. I can create it with fear in the background and worry about money and work or I can create with joy. I mean, I live on Kauai for Pete’s sake! How excellent is that? Plus, I have a strong, loving marriage and two snuggle puppies. I have two writing jobs that enable me to get my name out there, pay pretty decent and get me around the island and meeting people—a free meal once a week is nice also! 
This is my favorite goat shot

The writing class I'm taking is a lot of fun. I am working on my first assignment which is to decide on some topics and find potential markets. With Borders going out of business, it’s difficult to find a variety of magazines. I went to the Princeville library hoping to find magazines for the articles I want to write, but they don’t have the ones I’m looking for. It seems I’m going to have to send for some through the publication before my folks get tired of running to Barnes and Noble and the post office for me!

Based off a recommendation, we went to Kalaheo Cafe for this week’s article, and are happy to have found a gem on the South side. Next time we get visitors and we head west, we’ll make sure to stop there for breakfast and coffee. The article running in this week's issue features big, juicy burgers. It's still disappointing to see that Dan's shots are unappealing once they get them on the website.

I dropped off the chocolate chip cookies to the photo tour lady. She wasn’t there so I left them with a card. I am happy to say I have redeemed myself. She was already apprehensive because some guys said they were a writer and photographer and were doing a guide book. In the end she realized they just wanted a free tour and she felt completely taken advantage of. When I “called in sick” she was pretty annoyed. She called to thank me and was thrilled to get cookies (Dan’s idea) and grateful for the card. So yea! Because this is one of my article ideas. 

I like the Freedom From Smoking program. They have a message board and assignments. The assignments make you think about why you smoke and are designed to get deep into something that smokers usually don't think about. I feel that between the assignments and message boards I'll be successful. The message boards are filled with folks from each end of the spectrum. Some have been quit for three years and offer support and advice. Some, like me, are preparing to quit. You are supposed to post some of your assignments and the feedback is amazing. Quitting has always been a lonely process for me and being able to honestly talk with folks who understand and don't judge or have unrealistic expectations is extremely helpful.
Dinner time! The neighbor lady brought out carrots while Dan was gating shots of her goats.

Still sick today, I guess it’s going around the island. But everyday we feel better and I’m guessing in the next couple of days we’ll be back to normal. At lease I hope so!
Aloha nui loa
$4000.00 camera and glass

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Living the Spirit of Aloha

The mainland style of rush, rush, rush - do, do, do - is slowly fading from Dan and I. We came here full speed ahead, determined to quickly start our new lives. But, the island doesn’t work that way. From the moment we stepped on island, things happened in their own sweet time. 
We are letting go of our agendas and letting things unfold as they will. Taking our time, enjoying our life in paradise. We don’t rush to get somewhere on time. We leave with plenty of time to get there, and then we let go. If there is an accident or road work, oh well, folks don’t get tweaked if your late. It’s common for folks to be late than not anyway. 

According to the Dali Lama, the purpose of life is to pursue happiness. Things that make you happy, thoughts that make you happy, pursue those. Eliminate stuff that doesn’t. Just ask yourself, does this action or thought contribute to my happiness? 
It’s pretty freeing.
This week promised to be fun. We went to a birthday party last Sunday in the beautiful valley of Kalihiwai, the beach just minutes away. Monday, I signed up for a writing course and the American Lung Association's Freedom From Smoking program. 

The restaurant review was where we celebrated 10 years of marriage, where we dreamed of moving here. The restaurant has an amazing orchid garden and pictures you see are ones Dan got while we were there.
I had a photo tour scheduled so I could write about it for the travel blog (which, by the way, won top listing—from hundreds of contestants—from Tripbase Awards). I had to cancel the photo tour.

Dan started feeling sick Tuesday, the night of the restaurant review. By Wednesday, he was feeling so bad (painful cough, fever, stuffy head, aches and pains) he went to work for a few hours before coming home. I was feeling it too, and got hit hard Thursday. We spent all day on the couch. I was entertaining the idea of going on the photo tour, but I could imagine what their clients would think if I happened to cough, so I cancelled. Friday and Saturday were spent on the couch.

Today, we are better. The fever is gone, the coughing isn’t as bad. We have stuffy heads, the kind that make you dizzy, and feel weak. Dan is going to work for three hours and I’m going to do laundry. I hope to make cookies to bring to the photo tour lady tomorrow. She went out of her way to arrange for us to go, getting an additional driver, only to have to cancel. 
I thought I’d share this definition of Aloha. I found it on a website and thought it described the word and the people of Hawaii perfectly.

The literal meaning of aloha is “the presence of breath” or “the breath of life.” It comes from “Alo,” meaning presence, front and face, and “ha,” meaning breath. Aloha is a way of living and treating each other with love and respect. Its deep meaning starts by teaching ourselves to love our own beings first and afterwards to spread the love to others.
According to the old kahunas (priests), being able to live the Spirit of Aloha was a way of reaching self-perfection and realization for our own body and soul. Aloha is sending and receiving a positive energy. Aloha is living in harmony. When you live the Spirit of Aloha, you create positive feelings and thoughts, which are never gone. They exist in space, multiply and spread over to others.